KEY QUESTIONS: What's been the common theme in all three Lions losses?

Posted Oct 21, 2013

Tim Twentyman covers key points from head coach Jim Schwartz's press conference, including the injury status of a few starters, the potential to sign an offensive tackle this week and two common themes in all three of the Lions losses this year

Lions head coach Jim Schwartz spent a little more than 17 minutes Monday taking one final look back at Sunday’s 27-24 loss the Cincinnati Bengals before he and his coaches shift their focus to game planning for the Dallas Cowboys.

Here are some key questions answered during Schwartz’s Monday press conference.

What is the injury status of some key starters?

Schwartz doesn’t get into particulars, when it comes to injuries, but he did give a couple of updates.

On CB Rahsean Mathis (groin):

"Mathis wasn’t able to finish, but he’s no worse for wear. He really stepped in and did a nice job and went as long as he could and was able to get us into the fourth quarter. So that was positive."

On T Corey Hilliard (knee):

"Hilliard was not able to return to the game. He’s got a knee. I don’t know (if) it’s a day-to-day thing, but it’s not a long-term thing."

On T Riley Reiff (hamstring):

"He was limited when he did return, but he was able to return and I kept a close eye on him on the sideline to make sure it wasn’t a situation where he’s going to hurt himself or the team and he was doing his job out there, so I think that’s a little bit encouraging."

Will the team have to explore bringing in outside help at the tackle position due to injures to Reiff, Hilliard and Jason Fox?

Besides the injuries suffered by Reiff and Hilliard against Cincinnati, the Lions have also been dealing with a knee injury suffered by starting right tackle Jason Fox in Green Bay. He hasn’t played or practiced since.

LaAdrian WaddleT LaAdrian Waddle (Photo: G.Smith/Detroit Lions)

"Potentially," Schwartz said of bringing in some outside help at the position. Undrafted rookie LaAdrian Waddle is currently the only healthy tackle on the roster.

"We just have to see this week how it goes and see where all those guys are. Jason Fox has missed a couple weeks, but he’s improving. We’ll see where he is. We could potentially be forced to make something, but it’s too soon to tell."

Has there been a common theme in the struggles to run the football in your three losses?

The Lions are averaging just 63 rushing yards per game in their three losses this season.

In their four wins, that number jumps to 114 per game.

"We’ve had some tough matchups," Schwartz said. "This was a good front. Strong linebackers, good defensive line, but we’ve had some of those before where we’ve won those matchups.

"I would say that’s been a common theme and the other thing that’s been common is we’ve failed to get takeaways on defense."

The Lions didn’t record a turnover in losses to Cincinnati and Green Bay and split one apiece in the loss to Arizona.

"When you combine both of those (lack of run game and turnovers), it’s going to make it difficult to win the game," Schwartz said. "We still played a very tough team, and even though we didn’t play our best, we still had a chance at the end and we didn’t make enough plays to win.

"I’d certainly classify those as contributing factors to our losses. Lack of takeaways and lack of a consistent running game. There’s one thing of having runs and being able to sort of grind things out, but we need to get some first downs in there. We need to create some explosive plays and we’re at our best when we’re doing that."

Has the defensive line made enough plays?

Everything the Lions want to do defensively begins upfront. If those guys don’t play well it almost seems like the rest of the defense doesn't play well.

"Everyone has to do their part," Schwartz said. "It’s not just the d-line, it’s not just them causing those plays."

Making plays and creating turnovers isn’t just the responsibility of the defensive line.

"We have a lot of guys back there in coverage that need to make plays on their own at times," he said.

What have been some factors in the Lions getting less-than-adequate pressure on the quarterback lately?

The play of the defensive line is a part of it, but the ineffectiveness of their blitz packages has played a part too.

Ziggy AnsahDE Ziggy Ansah (Photo: G.Smith/Detroit Lions)

The Lions have just four sacks four sacks in their last three games.

"We need to blitz a little bit better," Schwartz said. "We had some effective blitzes in this game and some of them not so effective. We have to be more consistent and that is something that can create some turnovers.

"They did a good job of protecting the ball. I certainly don’t want to pass without giving credit to them. Their running backs were secure with the football and (Andy) Dalton has had some turnovers this year but traditionally over his career he is good with taking care of the football, he did that in this game and it went a long way in putting them in position to win that game."

Why do the Lions always take the ball to begin the game?

"Because we have Calvin Johnson and Mathew Stafford," Schwartz said.

It’s not a bad thought process, really, but it should be noted the offense has failed to score on their first possession in any game this year.

"We like to get those guys the ball in their hands," Schwartz said. "We have confidence in those guys, not that we don’t have confidence in our defense, we actually had a couple games this year where we were going to defer based on field conditions and wind and things like that.

"It didn’t work out that way, the opponents won the toss and a couple times they deferred and put us out. We like to put the ball in our offenses hands for sure."

Have the coaches lost faith in cornerback Chris Houston?

No one wants to move on to Dallas more than Houston, who played one of his worst games since joining the Lions in 2010.

He gave up two first-half touchdowns and was replaced in the second half by rookie Darius Slay.

"He didn’t play his best game," Schwartz said of Houston. "The touchdown early but then there was other plays too. He can definitely play better and he has before and we will need him too.

"Confidence means a lot for corners. You are out there on an island and I’ve said a lot of times that it is physically the most difficult thing to do sports. To be out there on an island and have to cover it the way the rules are and defend the guys in the passing game. Confidence definitely has a lot to do with it, he will get it back."

Schwartz declined comment when asked if Houston was his starter moving forward.

What was your relationship with Jim Leyland like?

The 68-year old Tigers skipper resigned today after leading the Tigers to three-straight American League Central Division titles.

"Unfortunately our seasons overlap so much that we didn’t really get to spend a whole lot of time together," Schwartz said. "I think somewhere somebody is a playing a montage of his career highlights and there’s Frank Sinatra singing in the background, 'If I did it my way.'

"If he wasn’t a manager, everyone calls him manager or the skip, he would’ve been a captain of a ship somewhere. I think the hallmark of his managerial style would have been the same hallmark if he would’ve been that ship’s captain.

"He would’ve been up at the helm, probably smoking a cigarette. It would have been like 20-foot swells and hurricanes coming in and he wouldn’t even bat an eye. Everybody on the crew would have looked up and said, ‘Hey, things are going to be okay.’ That’s why I have so much respect for him."